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Birds on the move 

Jim Anderson's Weekly Natural World Column

click to enlarge swainsons-hawk-.jpg
"T

here are three birds over the butte on the east side, just under those puffy clouds..." Chuck Gates said, speaking under his binoculars.

"Got 'em," Peter Low responded, getting his scope up to his eye. "Looks like turkey vultures," he said after a few moments. If Peter Low says they're TVs, they are TVs. He can spot and identify Cooper's Hawks and Prairie Falcons from three quarters of a mile away—and be right every time!

Announcements similar to that of Chuck and Peter's go on most of the day, as others taking part in the East Cascade Audubon Society's annual Green Ridge Hawk Watch spot a bird—an event that's been going on for over 10 years on Green Ridge, northeast of Sisters.

Anyone interested in—or just wondering what watching birds is all about—is welcome to join experts and novices alike from Sept. 30 to Oct. 22. The roads to the site are well marked from Road 12 off of Highway 20 to Prairie Farm and Green Ridge Lookout. If you've never been up in that part of the Sisters Country, it might be best to meet the group at 9am in the Indian Ford Campground.

You will need a good set of binocs (and spotting scope—optional). Bring along what food you enjoy in the out-of-doors, water, and dress in layers for the weather (and if you want to sit, bring a folding chair).

If there's a good wind coming out of the southwest, there will be plenty of birds soaring on the updrafts along the edge of the ridge, and at this time of the year, there's no telling what the temperature will be.

If this is your fist time birding, please don't worry about identifying what you see. There are usually two or three "old-time birders" among the counters, and they really do enjoy helping someone get started in birding. There's nothing that thrills a birder more than knowing he or she got someone started on keeping a Life List of birds they'll see in their lifetime.

Now I gotta share a story about keeping a Life List: My oldest son, Dean, and I had a contest going from the time he was about 10 as to which of us would get the 500th bird on our respective Life List. Well, he graduated from Oregon State University and became an Air Force fighter pilot in F-16s, which found him living in several places around the globe, which put him ahead of me. But I went to live in the bush for a while with Aborigines in Australia, and that put me ahead of him, etc., etc., on-and-on.

Well, one night at 3 am I received a call from Dean in Italy. "Hey Pop, I just got my 500th bird" He blurted out.

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"What was it?" I asked.

"I don't know," he answered, "but I think it was a vulture of some kind, it left a big brown smear down the side of my fighter jet."

"Did it come inside...?" I asked with a huge lump in my throat. He answered "No, thankfully."

OK, back to Green Ridge. Because of weather conditions—which may, or may not be the result of climate change—there are several different birds migrating south along Green Ridge and other hawk watch locations statewide. Counters have reported seeing Broad-winged hawks showing up in Oregon. This is an Eastern U.S. soaring hawk that can be seen by the thousands (literally) soaring over Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, but have started showing up in the west.

Broad-winged hawks are a small soaring hawk of the genus buteo. During the summer, they are distributed over the eastern U.S. and Canada, but also seen as far west as British Columbia. They then migrate south from Mexico to southern Brazil.

Birders on the coast recently reported seeing Black Vultures in B.C., in Canada. If these reports are valid (no one sent along a voucher photo with the report...) there's a very good chance they may show up winging their way south to Mexico along Green Ridge. Black TVs soar higher than our local turkey vultures, and do not tip side-to-side as much.

(Speaking of TVs. If you haven't seen Dennis McGregor's paintings of the turkey/vulture, zebra/finch and other animals now in the Community Room of the Sisters Library, you're missing a hoot.)

The count for last Saturday started out slow but keeper-of-the-records—old time Green Ridge counter and eagle-watcher, Kim Boddie—sent along this list of the birds seen on the first day of the 2017 Hawk Watch:

  • 73 Turkey Vultures
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 1 Golden Eagle
  • 4 Osprey
  • 2 Northern Harrier
  • 22 Cooper's Hawk
  • 1 Northern Goshawk
  • 7 Red-tailed Hawk
  • 4 Merlin
  • 1 Peregrine Falcon
  • 3 Unidentified Accipters (bird hawks)
  • 1 Unidentified buteo (could have been a Broad-wing)
  • 1 Unidentified falcon


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